Weekly briefing

Sudan: war crimes

Genocide is not a word used lightly. Even the International Criminal Court's arrest warrant in 2008 for the Sudanese president, Omar el-Bashir, avoided it. It ruled that el-Bashir should be tried for war crimes, but evidence that he had tried to destroy the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa peoples was lacking. Now, that ruling has been overturned.

Good news? Perhaps. If he is tried, it may bring justice to Sudan, or yet another obstacle to peace. The Arab League rejects the warrant, the African Union accuses the ICC of targeting African countries, and el-Bashir himself appears unmoved.

Bosnia: terrorist fears

On 2 February, in the largest police operation Bosnia has seen since the 1992-95 war, 600 officers descended on the northern village of Gornja Maoca, arresting seven Muslim residents. Small and isolated, the village is home to followers of the strict Wahhabi sect, which some suggest forms the basis for al-Qaeda's ideology. There have been reports that ammunition was also seized.

Fifteen years after the end of the war, Bosnia is still divided along ethnic lines. Many fear that conflict could erupt again. But this raid was a united effort by police from both of the country's semi-autonomous regions - the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat federation - as well as the national security service.

Israel: hostage deals

For a while, it was starting to look as if Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held captive by Hamas since June 2006, might finally be returned. Mediators seemed close to fixing a deal exchanging several hundred Palestinian prisoners for Hamas's only Israeli captive. But, for now, talks have come to a halt.

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has said: "If Hamas wants a deal, it will happen. If it doesn't want a deal, it won't happen." The Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar blames "the appearance of Netanyahu" for stopping talks. Hamas claims that Israel assassinated Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a Hamas operative, in Dubai on 20 January. If this is true, the prime minister must have authorised the killing.

Shalit's position is even more fragile than before. Once seen as a form of insurance against the killing of Hamas members, his value may now have dropped.

Bollywood: gay kiss

Indian cinema is expecting its first male gay kiss in May, less than a year after the high court in Delhi decriminalised homosexuality with the words: "There is almost unanimous medical and psychiatric opinion that homosexuality is not a disease or a disorder."

Posters promoting Dunno Y . . . Na Jaane Kyun ("Don't Know Why"), which feature two topless men embracing, have appeared in Indian cities in recent days. Will the film be "India's answer to Brokeback Mountain", as promised?

Little is known about the plot so far, except that the hero, a male model who has a relationship with another man, is forced to "compromise" his morals to further his career. So who knows? The film still needs to get past the censors before Bollywood fans can find out.

Germany: coalitions

As her first 100 days at the head of Germany's centre-right coalition drew to a close, Angela Merkel must have thought fondly about her last first 100 days, when her Christian Democrat Party (CDU) was sharing power with the country's Social Democrats.

Elected in September 2009, Merkel's "dream coalition" of the CDU and the Free Democrats has seen her poll ratings drop by 11 points so far this year, as public squabbles over tax cuts undermine her reputation for economic and political dexterity. Ill-founded rumours of her resignation even circulated briefly.

When, 100 days ago, she called the government her "coalition of new possibilities", this is probably not what she had in mind.

This article first appeared in the 08 February 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Nightmare on Cameron Street